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 2019 Provost's Lecture Series

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November 22: Mats Larsson

mats larssonDirac and the Quantum Mechanics Nobel Prizes in 1933
Mats Larsson is Professor of Physics at Stockholm University and director of the AlbaNova University Center in Stockholm, which is a joint scientific center between the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Stockholm University. He serves on the Nobel Committee for physics during 2016-2021. His research interests are laboratory astrophysics and its importance to astrochemistry, free electron laser research targeting small molecules, and, more recently, molecular chirality and chiral interaction. He chairs a Nobel Symposium on Chiral Matter during 2020, with Dmitri Kharzeev as one of the co-chairs.

Co-Sponsors:  Department of Physics and Astronomy, Simons Center for Geometry and Physics

Abstract: There has never been a longer peace-time gap in the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics than between 1930 and 1933. The gap did not depend on a lack of candidates, but the significant problems the Nobel Committee had to reconcile the new quantum mechanics with the requirement of the will of Alfred Nobel, who states that the prize should be awarded for a “discovery” or “invention.” Whereas the committee agreed that Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger were the obvious candidates, the situation for Paul Dirac was totally different. The 1932 year’s prize had been postponed, and 1933 turned out to be a dramatic year. The discovery of the positive electron (positron), announced in March 1933, was a game changer, and finally raised Dirac to where he belonged: an equal to Heisenberg and Schrödinger. Based on the original documents from the Nobel archive, the lecture will describe Dirac’s dramatic road to a Nobel Prize in Physics.

November 22, 5:45 pm, Simons Center for Geometry and Physics Della Pietra Family Auditorium 
Preceded by reception at 5 pm

Previous Lectures

October 2: Camilla Townsend

camilla townsendIndigenous Historians in Colonial Mexico
Camilla Townsend is Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University. She is a leading scholar in Nahuatl, the Aztec language and culture of the central valley of Mexico, and in the complex colonial mixing of native and European traditions during the early modern period in the Americas. She has won major scholarly grants and prizes, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, Guggenheim Fellowship, and Fulbright Commission grant, and has received numerous international distinctions for her academic work on Native American cultures, including gender relations, on Mexico, the Andes and the Chesapeake region. Among her published books are Here in This Year: Seventeenth-Century Nahuatl Annals of the Tlaxcala-Puebla Valley (Stanford, 2010); Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico (New Mexico, 2006); Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (Hill & Wang, 2004); and her recent Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico Kept their History Alive (Oxford, 2016).

Professor Townsend's lecture is part of MEXICO 500+: Indigenous and Global Cultures in Colonial Mesoamerica

Co-Sponsors: Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature, Humanities Institute, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center

Abstract: Professor Townsend will be describing her recent work on sixteenth century Nahuatl “year counts,” traditional storytelling performances that were transcribed into Roman letters after the alphabetization of young Nahuas by Spanish friars. These Mexican annals were written by Indians to be consumed by Indians and stand out as great examples of the vitality of Indigenous cultures. Her research has recovered the identities and contexts of generations of indigenous writers that narrated their own history in a highly complex colonial context.

October 2, 1 pm, Humanities, Room 1008


October 4: Dr. Martin Sliwinski

martin sliwinskiCognition on the Go: The Opportunities and Challenges for Mobile Cognitive Health Research
Dr. Martin Sliwinski is Director of the Center for Healthy Aging, Gregory H. Wolf Professor of Aging Studies, and Professor of Human Development & Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, PA. His expertise is in topics of cognition, aging, stress, and mobile assessment. He is lead investigator on large National Institute on Aging grants, including Mobile Monitoring of Cognitive Change (M2C2) and the Einstein Aging Study (EAS). Dr. Sliwinski and his team develop and validate cognitive assessments that can be delivered via smartphones in order to obtain high precision measurements of cognitive function and to assess subtle variations and changes in cognitive performance in the context of everyday life. Dr. Sliwinski is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Psychological Society.

Co-Sponsors: Stony Brook University Aging Interest Group, Department of Psychology, and Program in Public Health

Abstract: Dr. Sliwinski will describe his recent work on developing mobile assessments of cognitive performance. Cognitive decline is a defining feature of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Tracking cognitive change is also central to clinical and research applications focused on normative cognitive aging and other health applications. Traditional approaches to measuring cognition are, however, hampered by retrospective reporting biases and inaccuracies, unmeasured sources of within-person variability, and the artificial nature of the testing environment. Additionally, ambulatory methods allow the study of ‘real-time’ relationships between risk exposures (e.g., stress, pain, poor sleep) and cognitive function in daily life, which can provide novel opportunities for developing personalized and time-sensitive interventions.

October 4, 2 pm, Charles B. Wang Center Theater

October 18:  Omar M. Yaghi

omar yaghi Reticular Chemistry Leading to Carbon Capture and Water Harvesting from Air
Omar Yaghi is  the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley. He received a BS in chemistry from SUNY Albany (1985), and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois-Urbana (1990). He was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University (1990-92), and has held professorial positions in chemistry at Arizona State University (1992-97), the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (1998-2005), and UCLA (2006-11). Professor Yaghi has received numerous awards including the Materials Research Society Medal (2007), the American Chemical Society Award in Chemistry of Materials (2009), the King Faisal International Prize in Science (2015), the Albert Einstein World Award of Science (2017), the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Basic Sciences (2018), the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2018), the Eni Award for Excellence in Energy (2018), and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Aminoff Prize (2019). Professor Yaghi was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019.

Co-Sponsor: Department of Chemistry

Abstract: Since the first report of metal-organic frameworks in the mid-1990s and covalent organic frameworks in 2005, the chemistry of these frameworks has rapidly developed to become one of the fastest growing field of chemistry. It is reticular chemistry, which is defined as linking of molecular building blocks by strong bonds into crystalline extended structures. In this lecture the challenges and solutions to making crystalline, truly porous frameworks, and the ‘grammar’ of linking organic and inorganic building blocks by strong bonds into MOFs will be described. The flexibility with which these structures can be varied and modified has led to a plethora of structures and applications especially in catalysis, carbon capture, and water harvesting from desert air. The lecture will conclude by showing how multivariate structures of MOFs may very well lead to sequence-dependent materials properties. 

October 18, 3:30 pm, Simons Center for Geometry and Physics Della Pietra Family Auditorium

Presentation of the Rohlf Medal

October 24: Dean C. Adams

dean adamsMorphometrics, Macroevolution, and An Effect Size Measure for Multivariate Data
Dean Adams is  Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Iowa State University, where he is the Director of Graduate Education in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. His research focuses on the development of new analytical tools for quantifying multivariate phenotypes (morphometrics), methods for characterizing patterns of phenotypic evolution, and the use of statistical permutation approaches for evaluating high-dimensional datasets. He is the primary author of the popular software R-package geomorph, which facilitates shape analysis and phylogenetic comparative analyses of high-dimensional data. He is also an author of the R-package RRPP for high-dimensional data analysis. He has taught many workshops that have brought advanced morphometric techniques and phylogenetic comparative tools to scientists throughout the world.  Dr. Adams's empirical work focuses on morphological evolution in vertebrates, with an emphasis on plethodontid salamanders. Professor Adams is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He received his PhD from Stony Brook University's Ecology and Evolution deptartment in 1999.

Co-Sponsors: Department of Anthropology and the Department of Ecology and Evolution

Abstract: Understanding how phenotypes evolve at macroevolutionary scales is a major goal in evolutionary biology and lies within the purview of phylogenetic comparative methods. However, while comparative evolutionary biology provides a paradigm for characterizing patterns of phenotypic evolution, much of this toolkit is univariate, allowing only single-valued traits to be evaluated. By contrast, the field of geometric morphometrics provides a rich analytical framework for quantifying complex traits in a multivariate context, yet these approaches have been typically applied to non-phylogenetic questions. To decipher evolutionary patterns in complex traits, the best of both analytical toolkits is required. Our work has attempted to bridge this gap by providing new analytical theory and methods that merge and advance these two fields. In this talk, Dean Adams will review some of the developments that underlie the mathematical merger of multivariate shape theory and phylogenetic comparative methods. He argues that the unification of geometric morphometrics with phylogenetic comparative methods provides a path forward to addressing many recalcitrant issues in the macroevolution of multivariate phenotypes and has revealed several unexpected patterns not appreciated from a univariate perspective alone. His work has also lead to the emergence of an effect size measure for multivariate data, which has surprisingly broad application across a wide range of research questions. He anticipates this new effect size measure will have wide utility in morphometrics, evolutionary biology, and beyond.

October 24, 4 pm, Charles B. Wang Center Lecture Hall 2